COVID-19: Safe Steps to Help Your Community

In many countries, government guidance and advice has been changing rapidly to respond to infection numbers and national needs. This makes it difficult for organisations, charities and local communities to keep up. Without many formal systems for the public to help each other out yet in place, grass roots organisations have been springing up across the UK.

Unsure how to help vulnerable, at risk or elderly people in your community? Here are some simple ways to safely provide your support.

The Viral Kindness Card

Use the Viral Kindness Card

Designed by Becky Wass in Cornwall, UK, these cards can be easily filled out and put through doors in your neighbourhood. You can tick what services or support you are willing or able to provide, from a friendly phone call to collecting and dropping off shopping.

You can read more about the Viral Kindness movement here.

It’s important to remember to wash your hands before handling and delivering these cards. It is possible that the COVID-19 virus can remain viable on a surface for days, and we want to avoid posting it through people’s doors. This is why it will also be important to make sure you have clean hands when carrying out other people’s shopping, and that you place it on their doorstep and stand 2 meters away when dropping it off.

If you’re buying shopping on someone’s behalf, avoid confusion by coordinating in advance how the funds will change hands. Quite literally. Depending on the age and tech-savvy nature of the person you are helping, this may have to involve them handing over cash. If the person you are helping has symptoms of the virus, ask them to wash their hands before putting money in an envelope and leaving it in an agreed place for you. It is best to agree a time for this, too, to reduce the risk of any envelopes mysteriously disappearing.

The friendly phone call option on the cards will become increasingly important over time, especially for those that live alone. The old don’t talk to strangers rule may become a thing of healthier times, but remember to stay safe when giving your contact information out. If you’re distributing cards across a large or densely populated area, put only a first, middle or nickname on the card. Next to “I live at”, put a general neighbourhood or street name. A phone number and name is all that’s really needed. It’s cool to be kind; it’s great to be safe.

The full protocol for leafletting at this time is available here. Directions for safely delivering items to someone self isolating are here, and to those infected are here.

The policy for doing any kind of support work during the COVID-19 pandemic is outlined here.

Access to further COVID-19 resources and protocols are available through Queer Care’s home page.

Join an Existing Support Group

Check social media platforms for any corona virus support groups in your area. Try searching key words such as “virus”, “corona”, “mutual aid” and the neighbourhood name or postcode.

Many existing Mutual Aid groups in the UK are listed here, and here, through the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network UK. Several of these groups are operating in more local subsections via WhatsApp groups. These can be joined through the links provided on the Network list or through information on groups’ larger social media pages.

Set Up a Local Support Group in Your Area

Though this may sound like a feat, it can be easily done online and in step with any social distancing being advised. Utilise existing Facebook groups for your area; share the Viral Kindness card template to encourage others to offer their help if they can. Make a post to neighbourhood groups asking anyone who’s interested in helping to like or comment. Set up a new group for everyone that responds to discuss ideas or distribute tasks.

Perhaps you could divide up streets in your area, assigning each person one or two streets that they will deliver Viral Kindness cards or other useful information to. Neighbourhood Facebook groups are often used by families and middle-age range members of the community, who may already have a good awareness of where elderly or vulnerable individuals live as well.

Ask to put up posters in the corner shop, outside local places of worship or on your street. The posters could be about joining a support group you’ve already set up, or display a number someone can call for non-medical support if they need it. Now is a time to find new ways to reach out, as we learn how to keep that key physical distance from each other.

If you set up a Mutual Aid group in your area, make sure to register it here!

Share Information on Mental Health Support

There is an undeniable level of uncertainty at this time. While it is possible to be up to date on the accurate information available without panicking, many of us may experience higher levels of stress, anxiety or feelings of loneliness and depression than we otherwise would.

Several organisations have online forums for information and support, as well as phone lines for anonymous listening when you just need to talk. These services are designed for anyone affected by emotional and mental well-being, including those concerned for a friend, colleague or loved one.

The phone lines and web addresses of some these organisations operating within the UK are available here. This document and similar information can be easily distributed online, among friends and family, or in the same way as the Viral Kindness cards.

Stay Up to Date

Advice and guidelines have been changing almost daily in many countries. Make sure any support you’re offering or systems you set up remain in keeping with your government’s and the World Health Organisation‘s guidelines.

Share What You’re Doing

Inspire others by sharing what you’re doing to support your community safely at this time and/or raise awareness. For example, British national newspaper The Guardian is asking people to share their stories of action they are taking now. You can also tweet and email most news broadcasters and outlets in your efforts to show more people how they can help.

Even a simple share to your social media or an email update about what you or others are doing could inspire more people to get involved, and help great ideas gain traction.

Wash Your Hands; Follow Stay-at-Home Advice

The WHO guidelines for hygienic hand washing can be found here.

By washing our hands properly and more often than we normally would, and doing our best not to touch our faces, we really can help slow the spread of this virus. If you are in a country currently advising staying at home or social distancing, take those guidelines seriously. This will help give our healthcare systems the strongest chance to cope.

The current UK guidelines on staying at home are available here.

By Tallulah Hutson

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